Mullen: U.S., Allies Monitor Libya Situation

MANAMA, Bahrain, Feb. 24, 2011 — U.S. defense offi­cials are mon­i­tor­ing the civ­il unrest in Libya and will pro­vide Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma with a range of options, the nation’s top mil­i­tary offi­cer told reporters trav­el­ing with him today.
“Right now, it is very dif­fi­cult to know what is going to hap­pen” as the sit­u­a­tion in Libya unfolds “almost hourly,” Navy Adm. Mike Mullen said.

In terms of plan­ning, “we are look­ing at all our capa­bil­i­ties and a range of con­tin­gen­cies, as we always do,” he said. “What we [will] do is pro­vide the pres­i­dent options. And I want them to be as com­pre­hen­sive and robust and as far-rang­ing as we can think of at this point in time as the sit­u­a­tion unfolds.”

Mullen empha­sized that the Unit­ed States is not going it alone to deal with the cri­sis.

“We are work­ing with our allies, absolute­ly,” he said. “And as the lead­er­ship has said, I think it is the respon­si­bil­i­ty for all nations … to focus on end­ing that kind of vio­lence and look­ing for a peace­ful, non­vi­o­lent out­come, what­ev­er that is going to be.”

The chair­man arrived here in the Bahrai­ni cap­i­tal to meet with nation­al lead­ers dur­ing his sixth stop in a week-long trip through the region.

Mullen praised Bahrain’s Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa’s deci­sion to begin a nation­al dia­logue to address pro­tes­tors’ con­cerns after ini­tial vio­lence. “I have great admi­ra­tion for steps the crown prince has tak­en,” the chair­man said.

“I cer­tain­ly decry the vio­lence,” Mullen empha­sized. But “it’s a very impor­tant mes­sage that as soon as the [Bahrai­ni secu­ri­ty] forces went away, the vio­lence went away. And I think that both sides respond­ed in a way that ensured vio­lence would not con­tin­ue.

“That doesn’t mean we don’t eval­u­ate it,” he added.

Mullen said he “hon­est­ly nev­er gave a sec­ond thought” to recon­sid­er­ing the long-planned vis­it here, despite last week’s events.

Bahrain is a crit­i­cal, long­time ally and host to the U.S. 5th Fleet, the chair­man not­ed, adding that he looks to that rela­tion­ship con­tin­u­ing into the future.

Mullen told reporters his trip through the region has giv­en him new per­spec­tives about the tur­moil and the fact that every coun­try affect­ed faces dif­fer­ent issues.

“Each of these coun­tries is dif­fer­ent, and each of these coun­tries is fig­ur­ing out how to address their own chal­lenges,” he said. “That is real­ly up to them. Coun­try after coun­try after coun­try, this is about the peo­ple of these coun­tries and how their lead­er­ship address­es the chal­lenges they have.

“We want to help and sup­port where it is appro­pri­ate,” he con­tin­ued, with a goal of “doing it peace­ful­ly [and] sus­tain­ing sta­bil­i­ty.”

How it will be resolved is yet to be seen, Mullen not­ed. “We’re all in the mid­dle of this,” he added.

Near­ly two weeks after for­mer Egypt­ian Pres­i­dent Hos­ni Mubarak’s regime fell, Mullen said, there’s “more of an under­stand­ing of what is going on, but with­out clar­i­ty … about exact­ly what it all means.”

What is clear, the chair­man said, is that anti-gov­ern­ment protest move­ments rip­pling through the region demon­strate that peo­ple want much more than what al-Qai­da and oth­er ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tions have to offer.

“My belief is that al-Qai­da has had a bank­rupt approach from the begin­ning,” one based on vio­lence and blood­shed, Mullen said. “Al-Qai­da has no pos­i­tive out­come.”

Demon­stra­tors who have assert­ed them­selves against oppres­sion to seek oppor­tu­ni­ty, free­dom and bet­ter lives “are head­ed in the exact oppo­site direc­tion of what al-Qai­da seeks,” he said.

The protest move­ment “isn’t about seek­ing a way of life that al-Qai­da aspires to,” Mullen said. “It is about seek­ing a bet­ter life, about oppor­tu­ni­ty for them­selves and their fam­i­lies –- the kinds of free­doms, employ­ment oppor­tu­ni­ty, pros­per­i­ty [and] secu­ri­ty that many of them haven’t seen.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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